The Public Relations BlogCreativityStorytelling & WritingThe Mysterious Four-Dot Ellipsis in Star Wars

The Mysterious Four-Dot Ellipsis in Star Wars

The four-dot ellipsis in Star Wars might be an easter egg.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

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Why is there a four-dot ellip­sis in the Star Wars open­ing crawl?

So, here’s a source of many sleep­less nights:

Some time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, I noticed a strange four-dot ellip­sis in the open­ing crawl of Star Wars.

Did someone mess up, and then they just went with four dots?
Or was it inten­tion­al — if so: then what’s up with that?

Here’s the clas­sic open­ing sequence of Star Wars:

Star Wars opening crawl with four dots - Four-Dot Ellipsis
The clas­sic open­ing crawl in Star Wars.

Then, at the end of the open­ing crawl, we see that mys­ter­i­ous four-dot ellipsis:

Star Wars opening crawl - Four-Dot Ellipsis
Wait, but why are there four dots?

Why four dots?!

As a pro­fes­sion­al com­mu­nic­at­or and Swede with inter­na­tion­al cli­ents, I always strive to improve my English.

And, you know… it’s Star Wars.
I have to know, you know?

The Four Dots in Star Wars

In a movie fran­chise as metic­u­lously craf­ted as Star Wars, I could­n’t ima­gine a scen­ario where the cre­at­ors would add a fourth dot by mistake. 

And true to form: The four dot ellip­sis also occurs in all the oth­er Star Wars intros. 1The stan­dalone pre­quel Star Wars: Rogue One did­n’t have the clas­sic tilted intro crawl, but it, too, starts with “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” and — voilà! — the four dots.

Well, almost.

There’s one excep­tion: the open­ing crawl in Star Wars — The Return of the Jedi:

Star Wars opening crawl with only three dots - Four-Dot Ellipsis
There are only three dots in Star Wars — Return of the Jedi.

The final para­graph of the open­ing crawl has only three dots. 

Now, the four dots can­’t all be typos, right? And if they aren’t — what about the three dots in The Return of the Jedi? Well, as in every oth­er Star Wars movie, there is still a four-dot ellip­sis at the very begin­ning of the movie:

Star Wars opening crawl with four dots in the beginning - Four-Dot Ellipsis
Yes, there is a four-dot ellip­sis to be found before each open­ing crawl, too.

Perplexing.

The Classic Three-Dot Ellipsis

Before diving deep­er into this mys­tery, let’s look at how to use the reg­u­lar three-dot ellip­sis. It can be used to indic­ate an unfin­ished sen­tence or thought: 

I was going to…”

(Note: Since the three dots are in affin­ity with the phrase, there should­n’t be a space between the last word and the three-dot ellipsis.)

The three-dot ellip­sis can also be used to sig­nal that some­thing, per­haps omin­ous, is about to happen: 

But the story did­n’t end there…”

Some style guides sug­gest that these types of punc­tu­ation marks should be used with spaces in between them: 

But the story did­n’t end there. . .”

However, using spaces is more of a styl­ist­ic choice, albeit not very prac­tic­al in today’s digit­al age: this could res­ult in unwanted line breaks when using today’s word processors. 

Still, out­side of lit­er­ary uses, the three-dot ellip­sis is also used in form­al texts to indic­ate edit­or­i­al omis­sions. 2Some people use double-spaces as format­ting tools between sen­tences and first-line indent­a­tions, but unless you’re using a type­writer, it’s bet­ter to leave typo­graphy to the machines..

Original:

Doctor Spin is a PR blog writ­ten and edited by Jerry Silfwer.”

With edit­or­i­al omission: 

Doctor Spin is a PR blog … by Jerry Silfwer.”

The edited ver­sion still makes it a bit unclear; the only indic­a­tion that the ellip­sis was­n’t in the ori­gin­al text is that it has a space before and after. This is why many style guides recom­mend using par­en­thes­is for omissions: 

Doctor Spin is a PR blog (…) by Jerry Silfwer.”

But what if the quoted text already con­tains these types of omis­sions? Again, some style guides recom­mend keep­ing the author’s omis­sions with par­en­thes­is (…) and using brack­ets for your omissions […].

Confusing?

Well, we have left reg­u­lat­ory ter­rain and entered the land of style. 

Personally, whenev­er I use the three-dot ellip­sis for omis­sions, I prefer using brack­ets for max­im­um clarity: 

Doctor Spin is a PR blog […] by Jerry Silfwer.”

Not too com­plic­ated, I think.

So, what about the four-dot ellip­sis, then?

The Four-Dot Ellipsis Exists!

The four-dot ellip­sis exists, believe it or not.
Or it sort of exists.

If you use a three-dot ellip­sis (without par­en­theses or brack­ets) to remove words at the end of the sen­tence, it would the­or­et­ic­ally look like this: 

Doctor Spin is a PR blog… . It was launched in 2002.”

It makes sense, right? Words at the end of the sen­tence have been omit­ted, but it also has to be appar­ent to the read­er that there’s punc­tu­ation before the fol­low­ing sentence. 

However, in use, the space between the first three and the last dot is a prob­lem. Because the dots rep­res­ent omit­ted words where a space would­n’t fol­low the final omit­ted word.

Hence, there’s no space: 

Doctor Spin is a PR blog.… It was launched in 2002.”

Four dots in a row, go figure! 

Still, and this is worth men­tion­ing again, it’s not a “four dot ellip­sis” per se; it’s just a three-dot ellip­sis fol­lowed by “nor­mal” punc­tu­ation. Or vice versa.

Theoretically, you could also use brack­ets (or par­en­theses) to illus­trate the same thing: 

Doctor Spin is a PR blog […]. It was launched in 2002.”

In my opin­ion, the brack­ets are much clear­er. They make it easi­er for any read­er to under­stand what’s going on.

So what about Star Wars, then?

The Star Wars Ellipsis Mystery

Suppose the four-dot ellip­sis in Star Wars is inten­tion­al, which it must be. In that case, those four dots rep­res­ent a three-dot ellip­sis, either omit­ting the rest of the sen­tence or fore­bod­ing some­thing omin­ous … and reg­u­lar punctuation: 

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away […].”

Or:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. […]”

From an art dir­ect­or’s view­point, using par­en­thes­is or brack­ets would have giv­en each intro an unwanted touch of “aca­demia.” So, the four-dot ellip­sis intro used in all Star Wars movies is reas­on­able. Or, at least, not wrong.

But what about the four-dot ellip­sis end­ing the open­ing crawl of all reg­u­lar Star Wars movies? And what about the excep­tion of Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi?

Unlike the intro texts, all final open­ing crawl sen­tences seem to be fully com­pleted with no omit­ted words. But they also seem like sen­tences indic­at­ing that the story now con­tin­ues — which should call for a three-dot ellip­sis. Or should it? 

Well, you and I can­’t make that decision.
It’s ulti­mately the cre­at­or’s prerogative.

It’s a fic­ti­tious story, and the one who made it up has the final say, peri­od. (Pun inten­ded.) The open­ing crawls could be excerpts from a Star Wars lib­rary in some Jedi temple some­where. We can­not know for sure if those texts have con­tinu­ations or not.

But what about the three-dot ellip­sis in the open­ing crawl for Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi, then? Why is this ellip­sis break­ing the pat­tern in the two pre­vi­ous instal­ments, A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back?

Was that a mis­take, then?

The cre­at­ors could argue that that sen­tence had no omit­ted words com­pared to the “ori­gin­al source.” And, even though it was­n’t the final Star Wars movie, it was, at least at the time, the final chapter of the ori­gin­al Star Wars trilogy. 

Maybe noth­ing more had been “writ­ten down” in the fic­ti­tious Star Wars universe?

Maybe the saga’s timeline in Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi had, for lack of a bet­ter descrip­tion, caught up to the “present day”?

Did Flash Gordon inspire George Lucas?

According to for­ums and fan sites, George Lucas, the fath­er of the Star Wars fran­chise, was inspired by the open­ing crawl of Flash Gordon:

Flash Gordon opening crawl - Four-Dot Ellipsis
Aha!

We can see how the cre­at­ors of the Flash Gordon open­ing crawl use a four-dot ellip­sis — even using a space between the final dot and the fol­low­ing three-dot ellip­sis, thus indic­at­ing that the final sen­tence is com­plete but that there is more text omit­ted from the “ori­gin­al source” of the text.

Maybe the four dots in Star Wars is a dis­creet hat tip from George Lucas to Flash Gordon? 

I sus­pect that the four-dot ellip­sis in Star Wars is, first and fore­most, an east­er egg, a hat-tip from George Lucas to Flash Gordon for steal­ing the idea of using an open­ing crawl to set the scene.

Signature - Jerry Silfwer - Doctor Spin

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PR Resource: Storytelling Elements in Star Wars

Storytelling for Jedi Master - Star Wars—A New Hope
The clas­sic poster from Star Wars: A New Hope.
Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

Storytelling Elements in Star Wars

I was born in 1979, two years after Star Wars was released, so Star Wars: A New Hope was essen­tial to my upbringing.

I wanted to apply these clas­sic­al ele­ments to a well-known story to see how well they would work. I’ve out­lined the storytelling ele­ments found in almost all great stories.

Here’s how I struc­tured the storytelling ele­ments fir this story:

1. The Contract

At the begin­ning of Star Wars: A New Hope, you see Star Destroyers in space shoot­ing lasers and Darth Vader tak­ing Princess Leia Organa host­age. At the same time, they nego­ti­ate the whole dra­mat­ic setup before Leia’s taken to her cell.

Darth Vader and Princess Leia - Star Wars - A New Hope - Storytelling Element
No one tells Princess Leia what to do — not even Darth Vader. We learn about her com­mit­ment to the cause, but it will only worsen, espe­cially for her home plan­et, Alderaan.

2. The Pull

The Empire uses a tract­or beam, but we’re drawn into the story by two droids, R2-D2 and C3PO. R2-D2 knows some­thing but can only beep and blip, so C3PO has to ask many ques­tions and repeat the answers to pull the view­er into the story.

C3PO and R2-D2 - Star Wars - A New Hope - Storytelling Element
Two droids on the mis­sion of their lives. We learn that deliv­er­ing Princess Leia’s mes­sage to Obi-Wan Kenobi is more import­ant than any­thing else.

3. The Incident

After fight­ing with his foster par­ents, Luke Skywalker runs away from home and gets attacked by Sand People. However, he is then saved by his mys­ter­i­ous pro­tect­or, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Luke Skywalker is attacked by the Sand People on Tattoine - Star Wars - A New Hope - Storytelling Element
First knocked out, then he finds his home des­troyed and his fam­ily dead. Luke Skywalker is hav­ing a rough day, and he’s forced to make a choice and take up the fight against the mighty Empire.

4. The Reveal

R2-D2 shows his mes­sage from Princess Leia, thus open­ing up a whole new world for Luke Skywalker, and then Obi-Wan Kenobi explains about the Jedi.

Obi-Wan Kenobi gets the message from Princess Leia via R2-D2 - Star Wars - A New Hope - Storytelling Element
Princess Leia’s mes­sage func­tions as a cata­lyst, and through the eyes of Luke Skywalker, we get to exper­i­ence how a whole new world opens up for him. 

5. Point of No Return

Luke Skywalker real­izes his life will nev­er be the same as he rushes home to find his fam­ily butchered. He decides to fol­low Obi-Wan Kenobi and the droids to save Princess Leia. 3The Incident, The Reveal, and the Point of No Return are often quite close to each oth­er in most nar­rat­ives, and they might even be bundled togeth­er in the same scene or sequence. Together, they lead … Continue read­ing

The Millennium Falcon escapes Mos Eisley on Tattoine - Star Wars - A New Hope - Storytelling Element
In flee­ing from Mos Eisely, Luke Skywalker has no turn­ing back. He and his new com­pan­ions are now in the fight against the Empire.

6. Anti-Climax

Together with new com­pan­ions Han Solo and Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker man­ages to save Princess Leia, but at the same time, Obi-Wan Kenobi is struck down by Darth Vader.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is struck down by Darth Vader - Star Wars - A New Hope - Storytelling Element
What was sup­posed to be a brave and glor­i­ous res­cue ends in the sac­ri­fice of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke’s ment­or and Jedi master? 

7. All is Lost

As the rebels mobil­ise to strike against the Death Star, they suf­fer heavy losses against a super­i­or mil­it­ary force. But the rebels are picked off indi­vidu­ally, and Luke Skywalker is left with the almost impossible task of blow­ing up the Death Star without a func­tion­ing aim­ing system.

Luke Skywalker as the pilot ready to destroy the Death Star - Star Wars - A New Hope - Storytelling Element
It soon falls on Luke Skywalker to do the impossible. But he’s only begun to learn about the Force. And every­one dying around him.

8. News of Hope

Luke Skywalker gets sur­pris­ing help from Han Solo, who returns with the might of the Millennium Falcon — and the rest of the rebel fleet.

Millennium Falcon Returns with the Rebel Fleet - Star Wars - A New Hope - Storytelling Element
Han Solo plays the role of the ulti­mate sidekick who saves the day when our hero needs him the most.

9. The Climax

Luke Skywalker com­pletes his char­ac­ter arc for this movie by sum­mon­ing the spir­it of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Using the Force, Luke suc­ceeds in blow­ing up the Death Star and, more import­antly, takes an import­ant step towards ful­filling his des­tiny to become a true Jedi Knight.

Luke Skywalker Torpedoes the Death Star - Star Wars - A New Hope - Storytelling Element
Luke Skywalker taps into the Force and — bull’s eye!

10. The Pay-Off

Team Skywalker get medals, but more import­antly — their com­pan­ion­ship is forever forged, and they’re now ready to face the Empire yet again. 4Since the audi­ence has act­ively taken part in the story, shared decisions and exper­i­enced struggles emo­tion­ally, they want to be rewar­ded through the main char­ac­ters. They also want to feel that they … Continue read­ing

The medal ceremony - Star Wars - A New Hope - Storytelling Element
Heroes should get medals, right?

Learn more: Storytelling Elements in Star Wars: A New Hope

Logo - Spin Academy - Online PR Courses
ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 The stan­dalone pre­quel Star Wars: Rogue One did­n’t have the clas­sic tilted intro crawl, but it, too, starts with “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” and — voilà! — the four dots.
2 Some people use double-spaces as format­ting tools between sen­tences and first-line indent­a­tions, but unless you’re using a type­writer, it’s bet­ter to leave typo­graphy to the machines.
3 The Incident, The Reveal, and the Point of No Return are often quite close to each oth­er in most nar­rat­ives, and they might even be bundled togeth­er in the same scene or sequence. Together, they lead up to this: the audi­ence must want Luke to go on this adven­ture before he decides to go. Audience buy-in is crucial.
4 Since the audi­ence has act­ively taken part in the story, shared decisions and exper­i­enced struggles emo­tion­ally, they want to be rewar­ded through the main char­ac­ters. They also want to feel that they have grown from this story and are now bet­ter equipped to face any chal­lenges in their own lives.
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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